SHORTER, Ala. — Enthusiastic crowds streamed through the doors of the newly reopened Victoryland casino on Tuesday afternoon despite the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that its previous electronic bingo operations were illegal.
The casino had been shuttered since 2013, when the state seized 1,615 gambling machines and $260,000 in cash during a raid. The Alabama Supreme Court in March ruled the machines were illegal and chided casino owners trying to masquerade the devices as “bingo.”
VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor in a statement last month announcing the casino’s reopening said the facility had been illegally closed.
“While it has taken longer than we hoped, the time is now here and we are pleased that hundreds of our people will have a new job and VictoryLand will be generating a badly needed shot in the arm for Tuskegee and this entire region of Alabama,” McGregor said.
McGregor has said the Macon County’s sheriff and district attorney have assured him the new games are legal.
The state has been in a long-running legal battle over the legality of electronic bingo machines that look and feel like slot machines. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the machines were not covered by state laws allowing card and paper type bingo games as fundraisers for charities. The electronic games are similar to those operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians at the tribe’s three casinos, including in nearly Montgomery and Wetumpka. However, the tribe is not under the jurisdiction of the state.
The legal battle did not dampen enthusiasm from happy gamblers and casino employees on Tuesday. Scores of cars lined up outside the facility east of Montgomery hours ahead of the doors swinging open.
The casino did not appear to be under any immediate legal threat with local law enforcement supporter of the reopening and questions over the possibility of future state actions. Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson said last month that he believes the machines are in compliance with state law.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley in November rescinded an earlier executive order he signed that disbanded the previous governor’s gambling task force and turned over enforcement to the attorney general’s office. Bentley said he wanted local officials to enforce gambling laws.
Asked for comment on the reopening, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange noted the Supreme Court’s past rulings that, “electronic bingo is illegal.”
“The governor has expressly told the sheriff and district attorney in Macon County that they need to do their job and enforce state gambling laws. If those local officials are disregarding the governor’s order and facilitating illegal activity, then I expect the governor to take action. I stand ready to work with the Governor and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to stop illegal gambling and other crimes,” Strange said in a statement.